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First trial in patients with a potential treatment of the incurable ALS muscle disease
Date:12/1/2008

r the group of Diether Lambrechts, Wim Robberecht and Peter Carmeliet showed that persons who produce too little VEGF − due to certain variations in the gene that codes for VEGF − have a higher risk of developing ALS. This was the starting point of a search for a possible treatment with the VEGF protein.

Testing the treatment on rats with a severe form of ALS and on rats with a milder form, the researchers found that, in both groups, the VEGF-treated rats manifested the disease later than the untreated animals, and they lived considerably longer.

Using a pump

The researchers also investigated what the optimal technique would be for administering VEGF. An ordinary injection proved to be ineffective. But continuous administration of the VEGF protein directly into the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that circulates around the brain and the spinal cord) was quite effective. This was possible by means of a small pump that continuously pumps the VEGF protein in the brain. Furthermore, this technique permits a patient-oriented approach by enabling the administered dose of the VEGF protein to be easily controlled.

A story with several players

These encouraging and promising results were only the first steps on the way to a new remedy. Anders Haegerstrand and his team of the Swedish company NeuroNova have taken the development of the treatment further. After additional studies this research has reached the stage of starting the first trial in

patients. Wim Robberecht (UZ Leuven) and Markus Jerling (NeuroNova) will co-ordinate this first trial which is intended to evaluate the safety and tolerability of the drug and the infusion system. It is planned to start at the end of this year, and the investigator Dr Robberecht is currently looking for patients who are eligible for participation. These regulated studies on ALS patients will have to demonstrate the safety of the VEGF administration, and in a l
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
sooike.stoops@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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